The battles between the Bent One (Satan) and Maleldil (God) reaches high gear, though not yet the climax, in this week’s chapters.
The first battle is not a physical encounter, but the encounter between seduction and purity. The Bent One would tempt the Green Lady to a romantic role of tragedy: she’s is a victim of an irrational command, and, like many of her women counterparts on Thulcandra (Earth), she should rise above oppression and injustice, and transgress the command. For the sake of all the future daughters borne to her, she should pave the way toward the breaking of Maleldil’s command. Whereas Weston would tempt the Green Lady to view commands from absolute utility, Ransom attempts to point out to the Lady that of all Maleldil’s commands have for her joy and pleasure. The one command, not to spend the night on the Fixed Land, is the only one of the commands of Maleldil that are solely founded on love alone. There is no apparent utility to the command, only love and trust.
Weston’s argument, interestingly, turns on subsuming the prohibition about the Fixed Land under the other aspects of Maleldil’s will for the Green Lady such as growth and enjoyment. Weston’s argument, Ransom notes, is so powerful because it is half-true. Maleldil does want the Green Lady to grow in love and knowledge and wisdom. But, Ransom tries to argue, to transgress this one command is to transgress all.
The scene then turns to the second battle. Just preceding this is the powerful account of Ransom wrestling within himself as to why he was here on Perelandra and what good he can do to save the Green Lady from sin, loss of innocence and death. He only slowly comes to realize that the success of the encounter does, indeed, rest solely on Ransom’s ability. The Green Lady may well, indeed, fall to sin and transgress Maleldil’s command. Ransom can hope for no miraculous deliverence from Maleldil. This brings him to the point of despair, for he knows that the only way to bring about victory, is to battle the shell of a body that is Weston to the death. He must kill the Un-man. He is, after all, the voice from Deep Heaven points out, named Ransom.
And then, when Ransom is at the depths of hopelessness and doubt, the Voice reminds him, “My name is Ransom, too.” There may well be sin, and its catastrophic consequences, and though the Incarnation was a one time event that changed all the universe, still, Maleldil may yet work an even greater wonder, and bring from defeat the mystery of awful victory.
Steeled, then, Ransom begins the second battle and physically confronts the Un-man. And here there rises in him the purest of hatreds: the hatred of the holy for the unholy. A hatred so pure, it may well be that Ransom could not have experienced it on Earth. The Un-man/Weston and Ransom nearly kill one another, but just as Ransom has wreaked havoc on the physical shell that is Weston’s body, the Un-man escapes and heads out to sea. Ransom follows, and they both make it to the Fixed Land. But just as they do, the Un-man grasps Ransom about the legs and they sink beneath the waves.
It’s interesting how the argument of the Un-man with the Green Lady is so contemporary. The encouragement to the transgression of God’s commands, clear and unequivocal, is so often painted in the tragic terms of justice and injustice. How could God deny that which is so manifestly useful: love and sacrifice and personhood? God would not prohibit that which was just, would he? But this is to fail to see that sometimes God’s commands are not intended to cultivate utility, but are intended to cultivate love and trust. How useful it was, how productive of knowledge, for our biblical Father and Mother to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How unjust of God to withhold further development from his creatures. But then how unloving and untrusting of the first man and the first woman–and we in them–to transgress that command. Ah, yes, God was set against us, but we, in the quest for greater growth and maturity, steeled ourselves against this great tragedy and boldly stretched forth our hands. And our world and all our lives came undone.
It is also interesting how Lewis describes biblical godly hate. We moderns denigrate this sort of hatred. But the biblical and historical witness is clear: righteous hatred exists, we dare not discount it; and it is so dangerous that we dare not take it up without the infusion of God. Indeed, it is far from certain that our insistence on “Jesus’ love” gentle, meek and mild is more noble than the espousal of godly hatred. Instead of being more pure, it may well be that we are the more apathetic. We let evil increase, because left with the option of pure hatred, we reject it–how un-Christlike–and do nothing. We fail to remember that Jesus himself left us an example, and braided a whip, and, if I may, in holiness kicked some unrighteous ass.
There is much going on in our modern U. S. society about which we Christians should, in all likelihood, be braiding cords. But we fear the ill reputation that holy hatred brings in our society. We’re concerned about “witness” giving little thought to the fact that doing nothing in the face of evil is just as much a witness, albeit of another kind. Ah, but we could not handle that sort of hatred, one may say. True enough. And we are indicted in our pathetic immaturity and worldliness.
One final note: while in pursuit of Weston, Ransom takes of some seaweed, and is not only fed by it, but is given concrete knowledge by the food. This is nothing less than what the Eucharist does. It feeds body and soul, giving us a knowledge of the participation in the life of God that can only come from the sacramental reality we consume.